Nvidia brings its gaming expertise to the Australian streaming box market with the game-centric Nvidia Shield TV.
Buy any new TV and it will invariably come with a range of smart TV streaming features, but the updates to those devices can be spotty, to put it politely. An increasing number of Australians are sidestepping those issues by using dedicated streaming set-top boxes such as the Apple TV, Foxtel Now Box or Vodafone TV.
Nvidia's take on a streaming box has a distinctly gaming flavour, as you might expect, and while it's taken its time to arrive in Australia, it will shortly be an option in the busy streaming box market.
What does the Nvidia Shield TV do?
Like the Foxtel Now Box or Vodafone TV, the Nvidia Shield TV is an Android TV device, which means it's running Google's specific Android variant for large-screened TV experiences. That means that the Nvidia Shield TV works with a wide range of apps as well as the "Cast" ability of devices such as the Google Chromecast for sending video or image content from Android or iOS apps.
The Nvidia Shield TV supports video output at up to 4K HDR, as long as you've got compatible material to view and a TV that scales up that high.
The Nvidia Shield TV features ethernet and Wi-Fi connectivity for streaming purposes, as well as two USB ports at the rear for attaching other devices. That's not just a storage play, either, as it will support external peripherals such as keyboards, mice, gaming controllers or even web cameras. It's also Bluetooth enabled for easy pairing with headphones and supported game controllers.
Games are key to Nvidia's DNA, so it's not surprising that the Nvidia Shield TV is a TV set-top box with gaming in mind, although the exact shape that it'll take in Australia is yet to be confirmed. It will natively support Android TV-based games without a doubt. If you've got an Nvidia-powered gaming PC on the same network, you will be able to use Nvidia's GameStream feature, which allows you to send your PC's output to your TV, in a similar way to Valve's Steam Link.
The final piece of the Nvidia gaming puzzle is one that many Australian gamers have been waiting on for a long time. That's GeForce Now, Nvidia's game streaming server which skips out on the local PC in favour of an Nvidia server providing high-quality gaming goodness.
GeForce Now absolutely requires a high-quality broadband connection to work properly, because even a tiny amount of system lag would be lethal for all but the slowest strategy titles, and it's not been available in Australia up until now.
We're seeing a slow uptick in Australian broadband quality as the National Broadband Network rolls out, but whether that'll be enough for Nvidia to justify bringing GeForce Now Down Under remains to be seen. There's no mention of GeForce Now in Nvidia's local press release for the Nvidia Shield TV, so we're not hopeful.
Which services will Nvidia Shield TV be compatible with?
Nvidia's initial announcement around the Australian version highlights the availability of Stan, tenplay and 7 Plus through the Google Play app store, which means that they will be directly supported. It has also announced Google Cast compatibility for 9 Now and ABC iview, which suggests that they may not be available in app form, at least at launch. If you've got a compatible smartphone or tablet, you should be able to cast them up to the Shield TV, and the same should be true for services such as Netflix and Foxtel Now.
That does leave quite a few larger players up in the air in terms of app compatibility, including heavyweights such as Netflix and Foxtel Now. Many boxes promise most services, but none to date have covered everything. Nvidia could establish a solid presence if it manages to sign up a wide range of services for Nvidia Shield TV, or it may just be another content-limited option for streaming.
How much will Nvidia Shield TV cost?
The Nvidia Shield TV will retail in Australia for $249 outright.
Overseas, Nvidia provides the Shield TV in two configurations, either with just a standard media controller remote, or with the media controller remote and an Nvidia Shield controller. That $249 price almost certainly relates to the basic pack with only the remote, with pricing for the game controller version yet to be announced.
When will Nvidia Shield be available in Australia?
Nvidia has announced that it will start selling the Nvidia Shield in Australia in July 2018.
It will be available for sale from Nvidia's local Shield website as well as a range of computer resellers including PC Case Gear, Umart, Mwave, Centrecom, Scorptec, PLE Computers, JW Computers, Austin Computers and Computer Alliance.
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